Premier League Career: Middlesbrough (2006-2009), Bolton Wanderers (2011-2012)
A product of the youth system at Middlesbrough, David Wheater hasn’t played Premier League football since experiencing relegation with Bolton Wanderers in 2012. He remains with the Trotters now, captaining the side in very difficult financial times for the club with relegation to League One recently just confirmed. However, he is a wise experienced head which is just what the club needs at this time.
Wheater’s youth days saw him part of the successful Middlesbrough team that won the 2004 FA Youth Cup; a year after losing the same event to Manchester United. Promoted to the Boro first-team at the age of just 17, he was given his Premier League debut by Steve McClaren in the 2005-2006 campaign. Loan spells did follow at Doncaster Rovers, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Darlington which produced mixed fortunes but Wheater was ready for a more regular role in 2007-2008, starting the club’s opening day defeat to Blackburn Rovers.
David’s form in 2007-2008 was so impressive; his manager Gareth Southgate was more than happy to sell the more experienced Jonathan Woodgate to Tottenham Hotspur in the 2008 January transfer window. He would score four goals in that campaign and won the North East Football Writers’ Association Young Player of the Year for his efforts.
He made another 32 appearances in 2008-2009 but Middlesbrough were relegated at the end of the campaign. Nevertheless, he stayed with the aim of getting the Teesiders back to the top-flight at the first attempt. Sadly, it didn’t quite work out for him and for the club. That summer, injury meant he missed out on the 2009 Under-21 European Championship after playing a prominent role for England and manager Stuart Pearce in the qualification period. He was called up a couple of times into the senior squad during Fabio Capello’s reign but never managed to make it onto the pitch to win a maiden senior international cap.
Southgate made him captain at the start of the new club season with Middlesbrough despite being just 22 but he was sacked early into the 2009-2010 campaign and when his successor was named, Gordon Strachan, he elected to give the armband to the more experienced Gary O’Neil.
Wheater continued to concentrate on his football and this actually made him a tougher player. Bolton Wanderers were impressed with his shrewd displays in the Championship and in January 2011, a deal was concluded for David to return to the Premier League, joining Bolton for an undisclosed fee. His Bolton league debut came a month later, coming on as a first half substitute for Zat Knight in the 2-0 home win over Everton.
The 2011-2012 campaign was not a good one for Wheater as he received two red cards in the first half of Bolton’s testing campaign. His first dismissal came in a defeat at Arsenal in September for holding back Theo Walcott. This was in his first league start of the season. In November, a foul on Everton winger Diniyar Bilyaletdinov was adjudged to be dangerous by Michael Oliver, who gave him a straight red card. Consequently, Wheater missed the next four Premier League engagements.
His last Premier League appearance came later that season in Bolton’s 2-2 home draw with West Bromwich Albion. In what was the Trotters’ final home match of the season, they threw away a two-goal lead and ultimately, it proved very costly as they were relegated a week later. It had bigger repercussions for Wheater though. He ruptured an anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee and was ruled out of action for nine months.
He returned in February 2013 and extended his contract at the end of the 2012-2013 season as the Lancashire side narrowly missed out on landing a play-off position in the Championship. At the end of the 2015-2016 season, Bolton were relegated to League One. Naturally, as he was on higher wages than most of his teammates, Wheater wasn’t offered a new deal and was subsequently released. However, he continued to train with Bolton that summer and after appearing as ‘a trialist’ in first-team pre-season friendlies, the club offered him a new deal with a significant pay cut, something Wheater was more than happy to accept.
He scored an impressive nine goals from centre-back as Bolton were promoted back to the Championship at the first attempt. He was voted as the club’s Player of the Season and was voted into the PFA League One Team of the Season alongside his defensive colleague, Mark Beevers. He signed a contract extension that summer and his only goal in 2017-2018 was a massive one for Phil Parkinson’s team. It was an equaliser in the final day 3-2 win over Nottingham Forest which kept Bolton in the second-tier at the expense of Barnsley and Burton Albion.
He was appointed skipper at the start of the 2018-2019 season, succeeding the departing Darren Pratley. It hasn’t been a joyous campaign for anyone at the club, with constant threats about administration and unpaid wages to players and staff. Wheater though has been one of Bolton’s more senior pros and done a good job in difficult circumstances.